As NBA players sport their personal fashion entering the ESPN athletic complex in Orlando, Fla., the outfits and style reflect evergreen messages most of our country should agree with by now: “Vote,” “Black Lives Matter,” “8:46,” and the latest, “Arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor.”
Tuesday night’s social justice message came in the form of a reimagined Make America Great Again hat that crossed through “Great America” and was replaced with “Make America Arrest the Cops who Killed Breonna Taylor.” LeBron James also opted not to come out for the National Anthem.
Many of the Lakers players wore the red hat, and others wore social justice shirts about police terrorism. James wore a shirt saying “By any means,” which is a phrase often used by Malcolm X in the ’60s when fighting racial hatred.
After midnight back on March 13, an undercover team of the Louisville Metro Police Department entered Breonna Taylor’s home using a battering ram on a no-knock warrant. Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, who lived with her, told police the day of the incident he didn’t know who was breaking into their home, so he grabbed his handgun and fired one shot. The police outside of the apartment returned at least 20 rounds into Taylor and Walker’s residence. Taylor was shot at least eight times as she lay in bed. Walker was a licensed gun owner.
Before I get into any more about this horrific story, I think it’s important to relay my mixed feelings about this new gesture for social justice. On the one hand, players are using their platform to plant a seed that everyone hopes will grow into the arrests of Louisville officers Brett Hankison, Jonathan Mattingly, Myles Cosgrove, and Joshua Haynes. This is great, but on the other hand, it also makes me think about how a clothing brand is profiting off the death of Breonna Taylor. The hat is being sold on Etsy.com for $34 by an outside vendor MerchDrop. Neither the players nor the Taylor family are getting any of the proceeds. MerchDrop is getting a lot of exposure for their hat, it’s a shame they’re not helping Taylor’s family.
I’d feel better about it if Taylor’s family was benefitting, not some label. .
“It’s something that we continue to put our foot on the gas, continue the pressure,” James said after the Lakers played the Trail Blazers Tuesday. “A woman who had a bright future and her life was taken away from her. There’s been no arrest. There’s been no justice not only for her but for her family and we want to continue to shed light on that situation. It’s just unjust and that’s what it’s about.”
And then there is the fact that hat maker used that bold red MAGA cap as a shell for their own message, which gnawed at me a little bit. I feel like the Lakers could have gone with an EMT theme, Taylor’s profession. It might not have come in the form of a hat, but I hate that MAGA hat no matter how it’s spun.
I think anyone who has any level of compassion is slightly disappointed with how long it’s taking the Kentucky attorney general, Daniel Cameron, to decide on charges in Taylor’s case. Her story has touched the hearts and minds of people all across the globe. To see after five months that the case has still not gotten off the ground in terms of charges or arrests, and waiting on the justice system to function as we’ve been told it should, weigh heavily on everyone’s spirits.
However you view the Lakers’ latest push for accountability in the justice system, I think we can all agree if players choose to wear apparel with victims’ names on it, do it in conjunction with the victim’s family. I’m all for Breonna Taylor’s grieving mother, Tamika Palmer, receiving the proceeds from the hats and shirts with her daughter’s name on it. Don’t use Taylor’s death as a way people make a quick buck.